Remembering the Stores of Arcadia

by Ed Howard
Reprinted from Society News, the newsletter of the Arcadia Area Historical Society
June 2012. Volume 18 Issue 1.

For variety and volume, stores along Arcadia’s Lake Street were probably at their zenith around 1910 to 1920. Population was at its highest, and business was thriving. But, business was still pretty good along Arcadia’s main avenue throughout the thirties, forties, and even early fifties, and we’ve been talking with some Arcadia High School grads who remember well the stores operating during that time.

Arlene (Werle) Olsen, now owner of Olsen-Sayles Gift Shop in Frankfort, recalls fondly her time working for Albert and Myrtle Martineau at their drugstore corner of Lake and 2nd. Her jobs were varied because Martineau's Drugstore offered services beyond the norm. There you could buy a fishing license, make or have made (and receive) telephone calls, and even book and catch the Greyhound Bus. Fountain favorites she recalls were the three scoop (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) banana splits and cherry cokes. Summer evenings they offered hamburgers, and when the Camp and Cottage people were around, they would sell as many as one hundred. Myrtle would fry, and Arlene would serve.



Looking Back Along the South Side of Lake Street
From right to left: Beaver Store, Skinner Building, and Ed Shira Pool Hall. The Smith Saloon and Fifth Street are behind the Pool Hall.


The Drugstore


Ice cream at the Drugstore was served in trim, measured scoops, and, oh yes, Arlene heard often of the huge nickel cones served by the competition “across” town. That was at Ed Thompson’s place on M-22, across from the Matteson Store. Local youth, and even farm kids coming in for the Monday-night free shows, knew well of the giant cones served by Ed and partner Lena. In spite of that appeal, however, many young men still preferred the ice cream served by the pretty counter girl at Martineau's.

And, it wasn’t that Arlene’s family didn’t also shop at Thompson’s. She says they often bought groceries there, especially the big bologna which all agreed was the “best” around. For then teen-ager Roy Olsen, shopping at Thompson’s meant extra gas. He remembers that if you pumped your own, Ed allowed you a few extra cents worth.

Drugstore and Arcadia State Savings Bank

Martineau's Drugstore is on the right. On the left is the Arcadia State Savings Bank. Later this building would be used as Arcadia's post office.


Thompson's Gas Station and Diner

This building is on the northeast corner of Lake Street and Sixth Street. This view is from Glover's Lake Road.


Same Building Later: Texaco Gas Station
This photo was taken around 1956 when the building was a Texaco Gas Station. This view is from M22.

East of Martineau's, Northwest corner of Lake and Fourth, Arlene’s grandparents also ran a store. Werle's Store sold not only basic food items like bread, lunch meat, and cookies, but also feed. Jerry Schroeder remembers being sent there regularly as a kid to buy “scratch feed” for their chickens (always 50 cents worth). It was also where he and Second Street buddy, Ray Knudsen, would generally go, if they had coins, to buy candy.  Ray himself remembers it more from his “bigger kid” days and as the place where young guys could buy cigarettes---at only 12 cents a pack. Find six roadside beer bottles, worth 2 cents each, turn them in at the Big Apple and, eureka, you had enough.


Lake Street Looking West at 4th
The Werle store is on the right. At the time this photo was taken this building was in use as the Louis Oppenheim store.

Like Arlene, Jerry also worked in one of Arcadia’s stores, but his memories aren’t quite so fond: The summer after his sophomore year, he began working at Lyle Schafer’s Market; a big part of his job was delivering ice to folks in Burnham, Camp Arcadia, and the town itself. Most locals then still used ice boxes. Owner Lyle was a rather no-nonsense, no excuses kind of guy, so, when Jerry had two delivery accidents that summer, he had reason to be worried. The first mishap occurred just after he’d returned from the Manistee ice house and was carrying an entire 600 pound block into the dirt roads of the Camp. The Schafer delivery vehicle was an old, Chevrolet pick-up with only a rope tail gate. With this load, it was at its limit. For whatever cause, the huge block began sliding backward, broke out through the rope and slammed onto the ground.



Thankfully, an older gentleman came out of his house and, after saying “looks like you have a problem, son,” helped save the day. The big block was already scored for shearing-off of 25 and 50 pound units, so, while Jerry sheared and loaded the smaller blocks, the man used his hose to wash them down. Customers never noticed the slightly lighter deliveries, nor did boss Lyle ever know it happened.

Pulling Ice from Lake Arcadia

Blocks of ice were cut from Lake Arcadia, carried to the ice house, packed in sawdust, and stored there. Individual blocks were delivered regularly to homes and stores where they were placed on a shelf in an ice box and used to keep food cold.


Schafers Store Front
This building was built to be an ice cream parlor by Orrie Lyons with bricks made in the cement block factory located on Oak Street. It has been home to many businesses but was best known as Schafer and Son Meat Market.

Lyle did hear of Jerry’s second accident. That was when Jerry lost tong control of a 50 pound block, and it crashed through the bottom of a Camp man’s new, oak ice box. The customer took it pretty well, and after only minor rumbling, Jerry kept his job. The next two summers, however, Jerry found it much less taxing working for Leon Wallaker at the Standard Station (now Mason Wood Processing).


The Standard Station

This is an aerial view looking southeast along M-22 near Lake Street. The Standard Station was at the southeast corner of the intersection. Behind the station and farther up M-22 are today's Pleasant Valley Motel and the Shady Nook restaurant.

There’s not space here to talk of other businesses remembered by our Arcadia grads, but maybe another time. Suffice now to say, important to Arcadia at the time were active establishments with names like Akerman, Anderson, Company Store, Ebert, Kalbitzer, Matteson, Meitz, and Shady Nook Inn. Along Lake Street now, we can only envision the many storefronts of yesteryear---and be thankful for the few that remain.